The Fabulous Johnny A

Excerpt from my memoir, Hardly Working.

I was probably practicing a guitar lick in my Church stall, on a day the waterbed store was closed, when George called me to come downstairs for some cake. It was his birthday. As I descended the stairs, I heard a note from a pitch pipe followed quickly by the opening lines of the most over-the-top, enthusiasm-on-steroids, opera-style rendition of “Happy Birthday” I had ever heard. Belting it out was a short, sweating gentleman dressed in a blue blazer and red bow tie, his eyes ready to jump out of their sockets, his dark hair slicked back. The performance was post-eccentric. The volume he achieved was astonishing. Could have filled an auditorium. “Ozzie,” said George. “I want you to meet John-John.” John was an opera singing tenor who could hit high “C.” He was a friend of George’s from his Baker University days in Kansas—just the sort of person who would fall into George’s orbit. George had served as John’s protector from the louts who populated the pin ball parlor near Baker. He was the kind of person who had been mocked all of his life for being too boisterous, too different, too unique, too much.  

Look around where you are right now, then proceed ten years into the future. How could I have possibly known that a decade hence I would utilize John’s talents to promote a television channel that no one had yet conceived, in an industry that had barely been born. At this moment, I was not conceiving anything beyond the birthday cake that John was devouring. This guy could eat.  

Here is a compilation of some of my work with John Andrews, one of the most sincere and indefatigable performers I have ever encountered. The first video is pulled from Not For Chowderheads, the 1982 special produced by KTWU, Topeka. The videos that follow were part of a seasonal campaign for MTV while I was marketing director at Sunflower Cablevision in Lawrence, KS.

Dancing Dairy Products

Side View

The Dancing Dairy Products at Sunflower Cablevision

The Dancing Dairy Products stepped their way into the hearts of many Eastern Kansans’ during the early 80s. They performed as part of the Barking Gecko entourage. Full disclosure: I married the cheese. (These photos by Jim Jewel.)

In performance, three dietary perspectives were presented by the Dairy MC. (No footage exists.) Here is the complete “rap” from memory:

The Meat Eater

I like to fry

Big hunks of meat

Pop ‘em in my mouth and chew

If I can’t find a sow I’ll settle for a cow

Or maybe a sheep or two

Bacon grease

Such sweet release

I love to eat ribs till I’m blue

Love to eat ribs till I’m blue

The Vegetarian:

I chew grapes

And drink pomegranate juice

I eat sprouts, lentils and mung

I’ll finish my kelp

Without any help

Wheat germ and oats keep me young

Vitamin D, so good for the knee

The heart the eyes and the lung

The soul the snout and the tongue

The Voice of Reason

But wait a minute!

Along with your meat

You just have to eat

Vegetables each day

Zucchini and steak

And bread that you bake

And don’t forget your dairy products

Don’t forget your dairy products…

Please please don’t forget your cheese

Hey that’s what I said

Smooth as silk they call it milk

a little bit of razzamatazz

After the show

The act broke up when the cheese took a teaching job. The DDP may have curdled into the sunset but this should not spoil it for true believers.